Manila is Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff country judging by the number of times you hear Concertos No. 1 and No 2 of said composers.
Liszt’s No. 1 is a close runner-up and it is a good enough concerto where you can see the good and the promising sides of a pianist. You can triumph by showing speed on the first and last movements and inevitably fail in the slow but equally challenging quasi adagio part.
Friday night at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra (PPO) under Yoshikazu Fukumura featured a brilliant piano soloist in Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and one concluded it was an auspicious way to start a season.
Pianist Yury Shadrin is a prizewinner of several piano competitions but what he showed Manila audience Friday night was a distinct musicality that often eludes competition prize winners.
He had approximately 20 minutes to make something of the concerto which often figured in school graduation recitals.
But in this Philippine debut, Shadrin made something genuinely appealing as he breezed through the four movements of the concerto with aplomb.
As it was, he had the touch — and the taste — to make something grand and ennobling about this forgotten piece. He didn’t use the first movement to show off virtuosity but rather he moved brilliantly through the keys strictly at the service of music. Here you find maturity at its most revealing moments.
But to this listener, the best moment of the concerto was in the slow quasi adagio movement where the pianist managed to impart something soulful and magical. How he connected the notes from slow to fast and slow made you realize this is a true artist performing.
There is inner passion even in the soft, nocturne-like passage and a real sense of drama in the strong fortissimo leading to the descending diminuendo scale.
In the allegro marziale animato finale, both soloist and orchestra rose to the occasion and what came out is abandoned warhorse given a brand-new shining patina.
After two curtain calls, Shadrin obliged with an apt encore piece, Chopin’s Etude No. 1 Op. 25. He made the piano sing and what a beautiful way to end the first part of the concert. (One finds it strange and mysterious that this lovely etude was — according to music historians — dedicated to Franz Liszt’s mistress.)
Understandably, one absorbed the kind of music education this pianist received starting with stints at the Moscow Conservatory and sessions with the great Leon Fleisher at the Peabody Conservatory.
A great school and a great teacher showed in every note of this PPO soloist.
Opening with Rossini’s Il Viaggio a Reims Overture, the PPO delivered a piece de resistance that brought the house down with Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 in E Minor.
One heard this piece earlier in the last MSO season concert and indeed, the magic remained.
Seasoned music lover Anna Leah Sarabia noted: “Pleasantly surprised that the PPO has significantly improved its sound under Maestro Fukumura. I think each new director brought something new in this orchestra like polish and confidence under Oliver Ochanine. Under Fukumura on his second season opening, I found a discipline that was just being dragged in and conveniently disregarded in the previous season.”
Seen in the season opening concert was the new CCP president Nick Lizaso who announced that as part of bringing the performing arts closer to the people, the PPO will visit Iloilo on March 2 next year, in Davao City in April and Legazpi City in May.
The PPO — the new CCP president added — is one of the country’sliving treasures that every Filipino must experience.
Earlier, Lizaso, as member of the CCP board, succeeded in bringing the PPO to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) to perform before cancer patients.
“I believe in the healing power of music especially to the young kids who have cancer. I believe in bringing the performing arts closer to the people,” he said.
Meanwhile, the concert also showed a kind of programming meant to bring back the lure of classical music to Filipino audiences.
Fukumura’s first season was called back to basics with a program to rediscover the classics.
This year, the PPO’s love affair with classical music resumed with a romantic flavor aptly called Romancing the Classics.
The next PPO attraction on October 13, 2017 features cellist Ray Wang playing Lalo’s Cello Concerto in D Minor. The rest of the program includes Mozart’s Symphony No. 32 in G and Stravinsky’s Petrushka the complete ballet suite.